Monster in the Closet (1986)

Monster in the Closet (1986)

It’s Out! It’s Out! It’s Out!

A spate of unusual murders in a small American town prompt a news reporter to investigate the story in an attempt to get his big break. However he uncovers more than he bargained for when the perpetrator is a slobbering monster that lives in closets and kills unsuspecting victims in their own bedrooms. He enlists the help of the army and a local scientist in an attempt to stop this monstrous rampage.

 

Troma aren’t exactly renowned for their quality filmmaking. Granted they’ve had some cult hits like The Toxic Avenger but on the whole, I’ve found their infamous productions to be goofy, shoddy and generally unwatchable piece of rubbish which have found a baying cult audience but little else beyond that. Monster in the Closet won’t change my perceptions of the company however I must eat a bit of humble pie and say that this was childishly entertaining. It’s a “so bad it’s good” film which just about borders on the right side of being ‘so bad, it’s good’ and not ‘so bad, it’s awful.’ Just about…

Focusing on a childhood fear of there being monsters lurking in the closet (though I always had a wardrobe not a closet), Monsters in the Closet could have worked pretty well as a more serious offering but opts to goof around with the material. Bizarrely enough, I wonder whether Pixar had seen this before they made Monsters Inc. – the shared ideas of monsters entering our realm through closets and then ultimately being stopped from returning by destroying these closet portals seems too rare to be a coincidence.

Monster in the Closet starts off in the worst way possible. The first ten minutes or so is nothing but scenes of random characters being attacked in their closets. We don’t see anything except an off-screen stage hand tossing random clothes into the bedroom and we hear some cartoony noises of a monster eating. I was really wondering what I had got myself in for and whether or not it was prudent to continue. However I like to give films a chance and so I stuck with it.

Once the narrative finally settles down into something resembling a proper story and the monster is revealed (pretty early on it has to be said) then the film picks up some steam. Yeah this was never going to win any awards for quality control but what it turns out to be a reasonable timewaster which spoofs the 50s monster movies about a monster loose in a small American town down to a tee. It’s blatantly a one-joke film which repeats the same situations over and over again (monster is seemingly indestructible/army helpless to stop it) but there’s a decent amount of mileage to be had before it runs out of gas.

It helps that the film plays upon familiar tropes and there’s a lot of fun to be had in spotting the references. Amongst the spoofing, I could see Superman, War of the Worlds, Psycho, King Kong, Alien and Close Encounters of the Third Kind to name a few. The King Kong one is particularly hilarious, twisting around the notion of ‘beauty and the beast’ by swapping the sex of beauty, which also harks back to the less-than-subtle title and hidden messages in Monster in the Closet. This monster is well and truly out of the closet, if you get my drift.

The monster looks awful when it’s unveiled to the audience about twenty minutes into the film but this is part of the charm. The film knows it’s onto a complete turkey of a creation and you’ll laugh your head off when you see it. So instead of hiding it away, the film wears it on its sleeve like a badge of honour and shows us as much of the monster as it can, in many instances during daylight so you can see every inch of rubber. It’s original, I’ll give it that, and has an annoying habit of constantly growing but it’s ridiculously slow and cumbersome, giving rise to the question of how anyone could possibly be caught and killed by it. And despite the fact that it does kill quite a few people, the film is gore-free. This wasn’t meant to be a splatter fest and I think it works in the film’s favour.

There’s a decent ensemble cast here which was surprising given the obvious low cost nature of the film. Donald Moffat, Claude Atkins, Stella Stevens, veteran John Carradine, character actor Henry Gibson and a very young Paul Walker all feature at some point. Moffat’s blustering army general is a particular hoot. Kevin Peter Hall, famous for playing the Predator and ‘Harry’ from Harry and The Hendersons is the man in the suit.

 

Monster is the Closet is daft junk but it makes no bones about that. Quality levels are low and expectation levels are lower but if you stick with it past the opening twenty minutes, you’ll be rewarded with an 80s monster flick which works far better than it has any right to. You need to get the film and once you do, it gets stale pretty quickly.

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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